Medical research 'biased towards diseases of rich Westerners'

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The Independent Online

A report into malaria research funding found stark inequalities between the amount of money spent on predominantly Western illnesses and diseases that kill millions every year in developing nations. The authors measured such inequalities by comparing how many years of productive life are lost to a disease and the amount of money spent combating them.

Diabetes, for instance, receives 1.6 per cent of the total money spent on medical research, even though as a fatal illness it only accounts for 1.1 per cent of all the productive years of life lost to disease. Malaria, on the other hand, is responsible for 3 per cent of all lost years. In other words, despite the fact that diabetes is three times less deadly than malaria, it gets six times more money in research and funding.

According to Malaria Foundation International, more than 2.5 billion people are at risk of catching malaria in 90 countries, mostly in developing nations. Children make up the vast majority of victims.

"It's really a tragedy when the world has done so little to stop this disease that kills 2,000 African children every day," Bill Gates told the AP news agency. "If those children were in rich countries, we would have headlines, we'd take action."

The Microsoft boss was speaking after announcing $258.3m (£145m) in new grants to combat the disease through his charity organisation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.